Travel bans, job markets, online classes have international students worried

Wes Watkins Lobby

International students who planned to go home for the break have changed their plans over the travel bans and the fear of getting sick. 

The decision from Oklahoma State University to transition online for two weeks after spring break leaves international students concerned about the semester.

As cases of COVID-19 have spread across the globe into the U.S., increasing the measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus. This includes several countries going into mandated quarantine, bans on international travel and the recent decision by many universities, including OSU, to transition everything to online classes.

This has left international students studying in America in a tough predicament: many cannot travel home for spring break, either because of travel bans or the fear of being infected. The university is strongly advising not leaving the country, especially for international students.

“Our office is discouraging (international travel) because we don’t know what it’s going to be like when they land over there, wherever it is,” said Tim Huff, the director of International Students and Scholars. “We don’t know if they’ll go into quarantine on that side, don’t know if the embassy or consulate offices are going to be open if they have any issues, don’t know if they’ll be quarantined whenever they come back. We’re advising students not to go.”

Asad Rahman is an international student from India getting his master’s degree in MIS. He said because of the virus, he won't be going home for break. However, he said he has a more pressing concern.

“The worst thing that I’m feeling because of this is that the job market is very bad these days,” Rahman said. “All the companies are freezing their hiring. So, that is actually the worst thing that is happening because I’m graduating and searching for a full-time job right now.”

Other students are less worried about the job market and more concerned about how the semester will go after the extended time away from campus. Asil Dairy is a senior studying fire protection and safety engineering from Saudi Arabia. He said the decision to move classes online after break has greatly affected his senior project.

“I feel like it caught me by surprise because I’m still doing my senior project and this is going to change a lot of the things I was doing,” Dairy said. “The surveys we were hoping to conduct after spring break, the presentations, a lot of it is going to change right now. So, this is just confusing things and making it way harder, changing the schedules around, changing things around.”

While the transition to online classes will undoubtedly have some initial issues, Huff said he doesn’t anticipate much of a problem. He said the University will have computers available to those with no personal access and most of the University’s services will stay open. However, some students are worried that online classes will not work as well as hoped.

“I don’t think Canvas is a good system to suddenly transition everything online," Dairy said. "I don’t think the professors have the experience to transition everything online and I think a lot of my professor are just planning to take a video in their office and putting it online. A lot of these videos, you can’t really ask the questions that you want. This kind of leaves me stranded with a lot of the classes that I’m taking and it kind of pushes me back in terms of the education I’m getting.”